In a survival situation you need to acquire the necessary tools to face a Hostile Environment. You will need the tools to acquire: clothing, water, shelter and food.

Get realistic training to survive in a Hostile Environment.

Get realistic training to survive in a Hostile Environment.

A survivor is defined as “a person who copes well with difficulties in their life”. You can get realistic training to survive in a Hostile Environment. Anyone reading this article can relate to that definition even if the types of difficulties we have personally faced are not the same as each other’s.

Alison Clarke:

Stepped outside of a Cape Town night club to get some fresh air before going back inside. A man approached her and suddenly started touching her inappropriately. She could have panicked, frozen in place, and become a victim but instead, remembering her training, she did what is known as the “Trident” – and it saved her life. The best part of the Trident is that it is a simple self-defence technique anyone can master.

Scott O’Grady:

Was flying a peacekeeping mission over Bosnia in June 1995. His F16 jet was hit by a missile and he ejected. On landing, he grabbed his bail-out bag and survived for a week behind enemy lines. The contents of that bail-out bag saved him until he was rescued by US Marines.

The two examples above are from different scenarios but both reflect difficulties handled well under pressure.

Every employer has a Duty of Care (DoC) responsibility to its staff and contractors working on the company premises. However, this responsibility extends beyond the physical workplace when staff travel abroad on company business. Then, your staff represent the ethos and business practices of your company. If their travel experience could expose them to the risk of loss of life, liberty, or limb, then their employer must ensure that the corporate traveller has the necessary skillset to avoid preventable death, detention or bodily damage.

Such a skillset is taught during hostile environment awareness training (H.E.A.T.) courses, which are available in South Africa, equip employees with the ability to operate effectively when seemingly benign situations turn hostile.

The benefits of a two-day H.E.A.T. course:

  • It will provide details of their company’s corporate travel security policy and procedures. (If your company doesn’t have a policy, one needs to be developed before the pandemic ends and travel resumes).
  • It will showcase the pre-planning that needs to be carried out before leaving staff leave their home country: key areas include destination intelligence about the foreign country; meet and greet protocols at airports; routes to hotels; local resources for emergency medical situations; and evacuation process along corridors of safety and emergency communications.
  • It will introduce the concept of “Everyday Carry (EDC)” – by knowing what kit to carry and how to use it, staff will be more self-reliant and capable of operating with confidence in a hostile environment, which will in turn provide the company with sufficient time to arrange for a controlled and safe evacuation.
  • It will allow staff to make informed decisions about where to spend their leisure time without exposing themselves or the company to physical, financial, or reputational risk.
  • It will show management how to prepare a debriefing on their return.
  • The nature of this debriefing is to provide management with lessons learned; marketing intelligence about the competition; and identified risks to other employees travelling on business.


By Benedict Weaver / Zero Foundation Africa

Get realistic training to survive in a Hostile Environment. Sign up for a H.E.A.T course today .

Find out more about how Zero Foundation Africa can help you.

Hydrate or Die: A guide to drinking water

Hydrate or Die: A guide to drinking water

Water is essential to life. But, how do we drink enough to maintain a hydrated body, especially in a survival situation? This is Hydrate or Die: A guide to drinking water.

We all think that we have different hydration needs and tend to drink fluids other than water when thirsty. Yet, general rule of thumb is to consume 30ml per kg of 9body weight. So, a 80 kg man requires 2 .4 litres a day but a 60kg woman only needs 1.8 litres.

Whilst finding such volumes may be easy in everyday life, the situation changes dramatically when a man-made or natural disaster happens. Why do you need such an amount of water and should you ration it?

The six reasons your body needs water

  1. Water is a sensory aid because it conducts nervous impulses around the body.
  2. Water helps us digest food in the stomach. If you do not have water, do not eat.
  3. Water is vital for waste removal. The kidneys flush out bodily toxins in urine. Do not drink your urine unless on a TV show.
  4. Water cools and moistens the lungs. This prevents the irritation of the pulmonary linings and helps with your breathing.
  5. Water provides lubrication around the joints and gives soft tissue extra cushioning.
  6. Water is the delivery system for oxygen and nutrients around the body.
By understanding why you need water and how much, is it a good idea to ration it, especially in a survival situation?

This question causes much debate in the survival community with differing opinions.

The most common suggestion is to conserve your water supplies and not drink for the first 24 hours. This might make sense if you can lie around and not do anything but does not make sense in a true survival situation.

At the onset of a disaster, you need to be able to think clearly and rationally. To be able to do so, you need to be hydrated. Also, building shelter, tending to the injured, bugging out of the area or creating signaling devices will be hard and require you to drink water.

Lastly, if you drink nothing for the first 24 hours, you might become so dehydrated that whatever you do drink will be ineffective.

So, rather than ration your water, attend one of our H.E.A.T. courses and learn how to find and purify water in any hostile environment. Always be hydrated so you can survive and thrive.

Learn more about how to stay hydrated in business throughout Africa here.

How to tell if someone is lying

How to tell if someone is lying

Despite the prevailing use of polygraph testing in some national intelligence agencies, law enforcement departments and businesses, there is no evidence that the tests work.

A lie is a verbal statement that is supposed to be false. Whilst there are many reasons as to why people lie, all lying has the intention to mislead. As such, it is generally viewed as wrong. But, the theory behind polygraph testing is incorrect as there is no evidence to support the theory that there is a pattern of observable responses which are unique to deception.

You might scratch your nose when asked a question because you have hay fever. You might avoid your interrogator’s gaze because you lack social skills. However, many polygraphers do secure admissions because they ask good questions in the proper sequence. Or, the subject is convinced that the polygraph machine does work.

6 ways to identify a liar

  1. Research the subject and their employer to gather some background intelligence.
  2. When meeting the subject, put them at ease. Observe how they behave in a relaxed environment. 
  3. Ask some personal and non-commercial intrusive questions about themselves that they have no reason to lie about.
  4. Ask some questions about which you know the answers but the information is negative. See how they answer the questions and whether they are lying or being untruthful. You want to create a comparison between their answers when they are truthful and when they are not.
  5. During your questioning, look for clusters of possible indicators such as- avoiding the answer, head shaking, legs pointed away from the body or overreacting.
  6. An effective technique used by successful interrogators is to ask a sequence of SKY questions. This refers to: S (whom do you suspect?); K (whom do you know did it?) and Y (did you do it?). Give the subject an opportunity to elaborate about their answers.

To become a human lie detector and prevent being ripped off, attend one of our courses and know how to detect deception.

H.E.A.T. tip: As a professional interrogator, confirm with the subject that their version of events is totally accurate. Then, ask them to tell you the same story but backwards. If the subject is lying, you will notice inconsistencies and indicators of deception.


Top 6 Emergency Preparedness Myths

The biggest obstacles regarding comprehensive Emergency Operations strategies are the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the true nature of emergency preparedness.

  1. “If something happens all I have to do is call 911.”: Help can only go so far, or be there so quickly. Your safety rests solely on your shoulders. You have to realise that, at some point, you might be on your own for a while, especially if the situation is extremely hostile. Learn to be self-reliant.
  2. “The insurance will cover everything.”: Realistically, insurance agents aren’t going to instantly rebuild and replace your losses. Also, your insurance plan might not cover some rather common terrorism or disaster related incidents.
  3. “Good preparedness is too expensive and too complicated.”: Knowing how to prepare is a life-saving skill. There are literally thousands of subtle, simple, and economical things you can do to drastically improve your emergency preparedness plan. The notion that preparedness is expensive or complicated comes from aggressively marketed, high-priced and likely unnecessary gear.
  4. “I can get free emergency preparedness information on the Internet.”: Many free sources contain really good information. However, many of them are nothing more than a rehash of “72-hour kit” ideas, and contain nothing new or comprehensive. Also, it takes time and experience to filter the mass of information. Some of these free sites have dangerous misinformation.
  5. “Nothing like that could ever happen here.”: Staying out of trouble in Africa is all about staying focused, staying alert and staying aware of the dangers that can and sometimes do become reality. The single worst thing you can do is to allow the all the good things you will encounter in Africa to lull you into a false sense of security.
  6. “In a real disaster, we’re all dead anyway.”: You can be assured of being rescued if you develop a psychology of survival based on the following three attributes:
  • Tell yourself that your home comforts are not essential to survival.
  • Tell yourself that your present discomfort will be nothing as compared to the extreme discomfort you will experience if you do nothing.
  • Remember that rather than doing nothing and dying, you can take control of the situation and live.

The H.E.A.T manual covers several topics related to survival in difficult, remote and extreme environments. Reading these chapters you will acquire survival tactics and practical knowledge that will help you to cope with unfamiliar circumstances after a natural or man-made disaster and build an emergency preparedness plan.

The manual covers a range of necessary topics and gives you the knowledge to help you return home.

Raft Survival: Making Your Lifeboat a ‘Survival Raft’

As many blue water and recreational sailors have learned with sufficient food, fuel, water and fishing equipment you can survive for months at sea. Depending on your food supplies (either dehydrated or boil-in-the-bag), you might need to set up a rain water collection system. If you do not have a solar still or de-salination unit simply rig up a tarpaulin, raincoat or plastic sheet that will direct the rain water into a container.  You could also erect a line of containers around your vessel to collect rain water when the inevitable storm blows over you.

Read more

Fishing in the wilderness: Five Techniques

Although there are different views from survival experts regarding trapping or catching food, most of us agree that fishing is one strategy that is worth trying.  Most fish you can catch are edible, easy to cook and tasty to eat.  However, as with any activity by understanding the principles you can be handsomely rewarded for minimum effort.

The advantage of open water, the sea and rivers is Read more

Survival Duct Tape

During our H.E.A.T courses, attendees often ask what are the most important pieces of kit to pack when traveling to a Hostile Environment. 

Although we discuss the design of survival kits and grab bags on Day One of the course, and issue a H.E.A.T. survival capsule™ to all attendees, experience has shown that the “redneck repair kit” is a useful item in your gear bag.  The redneck repair pack was a phrase coined by Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg who have written several books about duct tape.

The redneck repair kit contains 2 items- a can of WD-40 and a roll of duct tape.  Adhesive tapes have been in use since the early 18th century when rolls of cloth tape had an adhesive coating on one side and were stiffened with dried urine from cattle.  Hospitals used a tape made from Read more

The process of water purification

Knowledge of water and the process of water purification has enabled several delegates to operate in a Hostile Environment.

Planet Earth comprises 29% of landmass and 71% of water.  Interestingly, this same ratio exists in the human body which consists of 29% of tissue and body mass and 71% of water.  Whether this ratio is a result of intelligent design or divine intervention is not known, but the reality is that the body requires more water than food in order to survive.

According to the “Rule of Three”, we can survive without air for three minutes; without water for three days; and without food for three weeks.  The “Rule of Three” is simply an indication to help us with our survival priorities. However it also reminds us of certain dangers regarding dehydration and the need for proper water processing in order to survive in a hostile environment.

Before assessing various water purification processes, Read more

Alternative eating: which bugs are edible

The eating of bugs and insects is a highly emotional topic and raises the issue of what you can eat to survive.  Some edible bugs are tasty, whereas some edible bugs taste foul but will provide you with suitable nutrition. A large proportion of the world’s rural population consumes insects as they are an inexpensive and nutritious food source.

Some futurologists have even predicted that before the Earth’s population of seven billion and growing reaches critical mass, humans will be faced with a hungry and thirsty world.  Is the solution simply that we need to prepare ourselves to eat bugs and drink urine? Read more

Lighting a fire without matches

Discover more about the history of matches and learn how lighting a fire without matches in an extreme survival situation can save your life.

Fire is one of the four earthly elements that include wind, water and earth.

Unlike earth, wind and water, fire provides heat, a means of cooking, sterilisation, and a psychological boost to one’s sense of well-being, especially in a survival situation.

Also, there is a primal link between man and fire and everyone in a survival situation should know how to start and fuel a survival fire using a range of tools available.
Although a description of the match was recorded in a 10th Century Chinese book entitled “Records of the Unworldly and the Strange”, the first friction match was invented in Hamburg in the late 17th Century by a German.  At the time, an alchemist named Hennig Brandt was attempting to transform a mix of base metals into gold, but instead created phosphorous.  Over a decade later, the British physicist named Robert Boyle coated paper in phosphorous and a splinter of wood in sulphur.  When the wood was drawn across the folded paper, the wooden splinter burst into flames. Subsequently, in the mid-19th Century a pharmacist named John Walker created a match after stirring a mixture of potassium chloride, antimony sulphide, gum and starch with a wooden stick.  Using the stick to remove some of the solution that had dried on the end, the stick burst into flames.  John Walker gave a demonstration in London which was attended by a Mr. Samuel Jones.  Mr. Jones recognised the commercial potential and began manufacturing the match which he named “Lucifers”.

“Lucifers” were used to light cigarettes but the phosphorous matches created by the French chemist Charles Sauria were more user-friendly because they were odourless and longer than the English version.

Consequently, phosphorous based matches were manufactured in large quantities, often using child labour.  By the end of the 19th Century, the Swedes had improved on the match and an American attorney invented the matchbook, which became a means of advertising for a brewing company in 1896.
Although matches, and subsequently lighters, have become an easy way for starting a fire, other fire starters have existed for many years.  The use of flint for fire-making was practiced by early Homo Sapiens as well as the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Flint and steel was a common means of fire starting in the late medieval period and was a critical component for the combustion of black powder in early guns and rifles.  Aborigines and other so-called “primitive tribes people” have used a bow drill and other friction methods, including a fire piston, to light a fire without matches.

Therefore, although matches and various forms of lighters are readily available, it is useful to understand other methods of lighting fires without matches.

  • – Stretch out some steel wool and rub the side of 9 Volt battery with the strands of steel wool.  As the steel wool begins to glow and burn, blow gently and transfer the burning wool to your tinder nest.
  • – Use chocolate as a polish to rub the bottom of a fizzy drinks’ can and make it shine like mirror.  After polishing the bottom of the can, you would have created a parabolic mirror which you can then point towards the sun.  Place your tinder 2 centimetres from the reflecting light’s focal point and the tinder will ignite.
  • – Mix equal parts of glycerine and potassium permanganate and crush together in a crumbled piece of paper.  Within minutes of being combined, smoke will appear and a flame will ignite the paper.  Glycerine is the active constituent of anti-freeze, which is contained in the batteries of all cars.

You can also use a bow drill for starting a fire but friction-based fire making requires patience.  However, the principle of starting a fire using a hand drill, bow and drill or a fire plough, is the same – you need to create enough friction between the spinning spindle (vertical) and the fire board (horizontal) in order to create an ember to start your fire.